Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An interview with Real Estate Broker for the Sparkassen-Immobilien, Andreas Becker

Interview by: Roman Schilzow

Sparkassen-Immobilien is a department in Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe which is one of the biggest public banks in Germany. With Mr. Becker, the head of Sparkassen-Immobilien in the region of Calw, in the southwestern Germany, I got the opportunity to talk with him about the real estate market in Germany, especially in the region of Calw, where he is doing business for over 15 years.

Q: How did you get into the business of real estate?

A: “It was actually more of a coincidence that I got into real estate. After my apprenticeship as a bank advisor for the Sparkasse, I took break to take of our child as my wife operated her own kindergarten. During those two years, as I spent a lot of time at this place visiting my wife, I got the chance to speak to a lot of parents who were looking for a bigger house. As I knew a lot of people who were trying to sell their houses from the job I had before, I helped to sign four contracts within half a year. Of course I wasn’t paid, which made me to start working as a free broker for a small company in Nagold. It was a great time , as I could work whenever I wanted. After the break I decided not to go back to my old job, instead I got my broker license and stayed at the new job, which I liked so much more. After 7 years I went back to the Sparkasse, but this time not as a bank advisor but as a real estate broker”.

Q: What are your major responsibilities today as the head of the Sparkassen-Immobilien, Calw?

A: “My tasks vary today mainly from valuating properties we own due to bankruptcy of mortgage borrowers, managing these properties, dealing with Investors and real estate borrowers from the industrial sector, to looking for new investments which might be interesting for the Sparkassen-Immobilien”.

Q: When did you get this position and what will be the next aim you would like to reach?

A: “I have been working here for almost eight years and I got this position one and a half years ago. So far I am really satisfied with the position I have right now. If I would like to move up, I will have to leave Sparkassen-Immobilien and probably the region of Calw, too. As I love this region so much, that won’t happen soon”.

Q: What are the educational requirements for the job as a broker?

A: “To work as a real estate broker it is enough to have a general certificate of secondary school. To get the license though, you have to prove certain years of experience. This is possible either through working in this field, making an apprenticeship at a real estate broker or study with real estate as the major. We at Sparkassen-Immobilien also require experience in finance, as we act not only as brokers but also as lenders. Therefore, our employees have to have knowledge in this sector too”.

Q: Is everybody able to this job?

A: “Unfortunately I have to say no! In this job it is very important to be open to other people. Also you have to be able to present yourself as you are the one who is presenting the property, too. I use to say that a property is only as good as you are presenting it. Therefore it is very important to use proper language to express yourself. Of course not everybody has to have the same skills, but as for this job it is probably one of the most important things, it is required. That’s why not everybody is able to this job.

Q: What is the most important aspect why you are doing this job?

I think I like the part being together with other people most. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine to work all day in an office behind a computer. I need the contact to other people, as I have e.g. to my customers. I do not only talk about business with them, I also get to know their families, their predilections for certain things, hobbies etc. This is of course part of the business, too, but still way more personal than in other businesses. Also the fact that I can help those people to find something what will last for a long time, is very rewarding”.

Q: Are there also aspects about this job which you do not like?

A: I heard from so many people that they are not happy with what they are doing. I think I can say that I like my job. The only thing what makes me sometimes worry about it is, when I fail to find the right thing. I cannot always tell what what’s reason for that. But it last usually till the next success.

Q: Many People say, that real estate is a people business, what do you think about it?

A: “I would totally agree. I think if I hadn’t known that many people from my first job as a bank advisor, where people were not only my customers and I their bank advisor but rather some friends who could also talk to me about private things such as their properties and the plans they had with them, I wouldn’t have had this job today”.

Q: The American real estate market crashed dramatically during the financial crisis. How did the market in Germany or rather in the region of Calw react to this?

A: “Actually quite well. Sure we also had decrease in the values of the properties, but compared to the US market, our properties were not as overvalued. Also the number of default mortgages increased insignificantly in our region. Furthermore, during 2008 and 2009 the prices rose again and also the business itself”

Q: I know some people who are looking for an investment in Nagold, Calw for quite a long time without much success. What is the reason for that?

A: “There are mainly three reasons for that. First of all, after the financial crisis and the shock from the stock markets, many people came back to invest in real value, such as real estate which drove property prices higher, as just mentioned. Secondly, the Land of Baden-W├╝rttemberg designated Nagold as a growing city which makes it more interesting for investors who expect even higher prices in the future. Also responsible for the scarceness of available properties is the new planned railroad, which will connect the state capital Stuttgart to Nagold. Due to these three reasons, even though it is a small city, Nagold became very attractive for investors in the past two years which lead to a sort of buy out of real estate which makes it so difficult to find something what fits their requirements”.

Q: When do you think this situation will change again?

A: “I think it might last for another two or three years. This will probably be the time when the new railroad will be finished and residential and industrial properties will be built in the areas the city council has been designated as growing areas. I guess during this time most of the bigger investors will try to realize their profits.”

Q: What is a big success you have achieved recently?

A: I found an investor for a factory. The original owner couldn’t sell this property for almost two years”.

Q: Is there anything you would change, if you had a second chance?

A: “Yes, if I had known before, that I would have had three children, I would have built a bigger house”.

Q: What could you suggest a young person who just started in this field?

A: I would suggest to read the book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie. I think this book helped me to stay focused on what I was doing. I also connect with this phrase the skill not to give up even though the situation makes you really worry about. This is not only important for the real estate business but also for the life itself”.

Q: If you had to instruct a broker for yourself, what question would you ask him first?

A: What will you do exactly for me and my property?

First of all I would to thank to Mr. Becker who gave some of his time to tell me about the German real estate market. As he is working as a broker in the region of Calw, he could give a very interesting insight about the market in this particular region. I also learned how the German real estate market compared to the US market reacted on the financial crisis. I wish Mr. Becker and his family all the best and I expect him to continue his successful path in the real estate business.

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